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It’s not too late to create midlife magic

Welcome to another episode of The Cassandra Gaisford Show, where I interview inspiring men and women from around the world and tell you THEIR story of finding, launching, and growing their own passion-driven life and career. I call these people – Passionpreneurs.

Now let the journey begin…

Today I am super happy to be speaking with LAURA VIRGO. After years of toxic workplace stress, Laura has found her zen as an Amazon trader.

Discover how realigning with her values compelled Laura to prioritize health and happiness and make becoming her own boss her focus. 

Whether you are an aspiring lifestylepreneur, or looking for the courage to make a midlife career change, I know you will enjoy this super inspiring interview with Laura. 

We discuss why tuning into your body barometer, listening to your intuition, prioritizing your ingredients for success and learning from failure is the secret sauce to a successful career change.

At what age did you change careers/start your business?

I’ve done it twice.   I have a background in travel/event management but switched to finance when I was 48 to become a Mortgage Broker
6 years later aged 54, I took a course on selling on Amazon and have set up my own e-commerce store

What is your business called? What do you do?

My brand name is Zensational.  I source home décor products from China and ship them to the States to sell on Amazon.com

How did you choose your business name?

I love plays on words and my products are themed to bring peace and/or good fortune into your life so it was a combination of Zen and Sensational

Why did you change careers/start your business, or employ yourself?

I decided I’d had enough of the rat race and had had a bad experience with one of my bosses.  Previously very social and a ‘people person’ as I got older I became more introverted and was less inclined to be in the service industry with clients to please.  I was keen to work from home and not answer to anybody.  

How did you decide what to do?

Talking to Cassandra helped me define my priorities so I put it out to the Universe and kept my eyes open for opportunities

How did you find an idea it would be successful?

I saw an Amazon Seller course advertised and dismissed it at first thinking it would be all American hype.  However, once I found out the person who was running it was a single mother living in New Zealand that became much more relatable to me.  In the absence of knowing what I really wanted to do, I had thought about study so thought this would be worth doing for the knowledge and experience.

How did you the right product for the right market?

The course teaches you how to research products that have reasonable demand and low competition but it is not completely foolproof as things change all the time.  There is a bit of trial and error involved.

Is it hard work and how do you keep your energy levels?

It is certainly not for the faint-hearted.  In theory, if everything goes according to plan, you can work from anywhere with your laptop or phone which gives fantastic time freedom.   You have the ability to earn an income and build the business to sell if you want but it is certainly not an overnight thing.   And in these challenging Covid times when supply chain logistics are in disarray and shipping costs quadrupled, half the battle is keeping your nerve.  Some days I have heaps of energy and am on a roll.  Other days not so much.

Did you keep your day job, and start something on the side? How did you find the time? What advice would you give others?

I had just started a contract position that fell over when we moved into Level 4 lockdown.   At the time I had no option but to take boarders in and go on the single parent benefit.  But that did give me the luxury of studying the course full time.  Even with that, it’s taken me over a year to get the hang of Amazon and there is still lots to learn.  I take my hat off to those who have a day job and attempt this part-time.    It is pretty complex and I don’t think I have the headspace anymore to tackle two things at once. 

Is running the business a 24 x 7 thing? How do you maintain balance; find time for family; your relationship; your hobbies?

No. That’s the beauty of it.   Once you have a couple of products selling well, there is a rinse and repeat sequence.   Because I’m in NZ and my suppliers are in China, they typically don’t wake up until my lunchtime so I spend my mornings doing my own thing – housework, exercise, shopping, walking, coffee with friends.  Then I work the afternoons and take a break when my favourite quiz show comes on.   I’ll quite often bring the laptop out again in the evenings and weekends but I love research and analysis so it’s fun for me rather than work.   I can get totally caught up in rabbit holes looking for ideas and tweaking this and that so have recently stopped working at the weekends.  My son is passionate about basketball and has training with one group and games with another all on the same day so that’s my Sunday taken up and Saturday is more for relaxing now.

How did you find customers?

Amazon holds 51% market share of online shopping in the US. After Google, they are the second most popular search engine. They focus on the customer experience and are trusted. As such, their conversion rate is approx. 8-9% as opposed to other platforms like Etsy or Shopify which are more like 2-3%. Customers come to Amazon looking for something in particular.  The trick is to work out what they are looking for in the first place.  The business model is FBA (fulfilled by Amazon) which means as well as a commission, Amazon charges you a fee to do all the delivery and customer handling.  To me, it’s absolutely worth it as I am not constantly in touch with clientele answering questions, replacing items etc.  I don’t need to do any of that.

Did you require start-up capital? How did you find it?

Yes, you definitely do.  The idea is to start off with one product and build it up with perhaps a second the following year.  However, I don’t do things by halves and have launched six products in six months.  Three are keepers, two are duds and one is undecided.    I have a revolving credit mortgage with some space on it so used this as a line of credit.    

What is the secret to success, managing cash flow, and generating regular income?

Be extremely organized and understand the numbers.  So many people go into business without watching their bottom line and that’s what gets them into trouble.  Also being fairly brutal with your decision making.  If it’s not working, drop it.

Was there a learning curve? What skills did you need to learn?

A massive learning curve!   I knew nothing about e-commerce and am not very techy at all.  But this particular course provides a very good community with lots of support resources.  I refer to them daily!    You do have to be disciplined, patient and resourceful but I felt I had some experience in those areas by running my own business before.

What advice would you give to someone who has never started a business or been self-employed?

It’s not for everyone.  If you are risk-averse you are probably better to stick to permanent employment.   On the one hand, owning your own business gives you the freedom to make your own decisions and do things the way you want to but income can be irregular and unpredictable, you don’t get holiday pay or sick leave and some struggle without a ready-made structure set up.    When I first started my event management business I was employed part-time in a similar industry and was able to set things up on the side, dipping my toe in the water so to speak.  Once I’d had a few successes, that gave me the confidence to go out on my own properly.  I would recommend going that way if you have any doubts that being self-employed is right for you.

What are the steps to self-employment? Is there a “right” order?

Everyone approaches things differently but for me, it is a matter of getting your ducks in a row before taking the plunge.  Decide if you are going to be a sole trader or a company, speak to an accountant about tax implications, work out the fundamentals first – i.e. crunch the numbers for what you need in the way of stock, supplies, rent etc, what return on investment you can expect, how long that will take, what you have to live on while you make that work. 

Knowing what you now know, what would you do differently?

Because of the increased shipping costs, keeping several products in stock is proving costly at the moment.  It wasn’t something I could have predicted but it would have been easier for me if I’d just stuck to one product that I could easily replenish until such time that the world had settled down.    Having said that, even in times of adversity, you can find silver linings.    Because of the delays involved at the moment, the woman who runs the Amazon products course offered an extra option to learn about publishing e-books on Kindle as an additional source of income.  I had already written and self-published a self-help, paperback book years ago, and ironically when I was looking for a change of vocation, Cassandra had suggested I make it digital.  Again it has been a huge learning curve but I have just published it on Amazon Kindle this month and can tick that off as another achievement.

Anything else you would like to add?

Sometimes when I tell my friends what I’m doing and the challenges I’ve had – missing stock, breakages, goods stuck in factories because of lockdowns or on container ships because of congestion – they look at me as if I’m crazy.   In that sense, it’s much easier to be an employee and go to work Monday to Friday knowing that the buck doesn’t stop with you.   But I have learnt that I prefer to manage acute stress than chronic stress.   What I mean is that Yes, I have to think on my feet when thrown a curveball in this business but I can usually summon the where-with-all to resolve issues one way or the other.   What I can’t cope with now is a daily commute into town, being micromanaged, working in a job where no common sense is applied, being taken for granted and being expected to work all hours for someone else with minimal opportunity for a pay-rise.   I’ve done that for decades and ended up in hospital twice so I much prefer being the master of my own destiny, albeit one that zigs and zags before reaching my desired outcome.

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It’s not too late to create midlife magic

The Joyful Artist

I am an artist, storyteller, intuitive guide, mentor and Reiki master. All my creations are infused with positive energy , inspiration, and light. I believe in magic and the power of beauty, joy, love, purpose, and creativity to transform your life. My greatest joy is helping your realize your dreams. That makes my soul sing!

P: +64 (0) 21 873 833
E: hello@thejoyfulartist.co.nz


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